The Minders keep the faith

The Minders
this Thursday, July 19 at the Blackbird with Urban Legends and Mothball. 21+.
July 28, Meow Meow with Mates Of State and Dear Nora, All Ages.

Upon moving here from Denver three years ago, the Minders established themselves as one of Portland’s premier pop groups. Of course, it didn’t take much to get noticed, as their reputation preceded them. As part of Denver’s Elephant 6 collective, The Minders found an audience ready and waiting for them.

“When we first played here it was four or five years ago” said singer/songwriter/guitarist Martyn Leaper, huddled over a pint of domestic beer last Friday at a Southeast neighborhood tavern. “We played at [the now defunct] EJ’s, and you know, just like any local band, we came out here and played on the Fourth of July, and it was great. Then we went to S.F. and played and it was great and we were like, ‘we’re living in the wrong place.’ “

It comes as no surprise that Leaper is the man behind the shimmering pop nuggets offered up by the Minders. An affable English expatriate, he is the type to be constantly on the ready with an amusing anecdote or simple quip.

But most of all, Leaper is a man who wants to smooth over the wrinkles of life with solid pop songs.

On their latest release, Golden Street, Leaper and co. (his wife Rebecca Cole on drums, keyboards and vocals; Joanna Bolme on bass and Joel Morowitz on guitar) explore the nature of America’s suburbs, and take to task Eisenhower’s notion to put a “chicken in every pot.”

Leaper’s golden street is in Colorado Springs, Colo., where his family moved in 1984, when he was 15.

“When we moved into the States we moved into one of those stereotypical suburban settings,” Leaper said. “You know, cul-de-sac and everything. To me it’s fascinating, you are the only people on the street and then next week you have a bunch of neighbors.”

Now Colorado Springs is known best as a town whose faithful wander the streets praying for their neighbors, and just as they find themselves looking to enlighten in some way what they see as a spiritually vacuous place, Leaper sings to these streets of suburban America, looking for its soul.

Over the course of Golden Street, their second full-length release, the Minders navigate these middle-American streets, this bleak suburban wasteland, searching for meaning in the driveways and garages that house the American dream.

“For the most part . . . I want to have something that has maybe an ounce of meaning, something that is a vehicle, that gets into the listener ���� gets them involved at least slightly.”

It’s a solid release from a mature band doing what they do best: playing catchy, melody-driven pop rock ‘n’ roll. Leaper wants more than ’70s riff rock. He sees himself completely immersed in the pop tradition of the ’60s and ’70s, an era that saw pop go from the Beatle’s “She Loves You,” with its simplest form of pop expression, to the Who’s rock opera Tommy, a multi-layered work which looked to reach rock’s potential depth.

Leaper sees pop as one long continuum, and to the charge that the Minders play simple, unchallenging, non-forward-thinking pop tunes, he’s the first to point out that he is not attempting anything new ���� he’s just after honest, uncompromising pop music.

“I’m not a revolutionary,” he said simply.

Pop, by definition, is about simplicity and basic, earnest emotional expression. Great pop, pop by groups like the Minders, avoids the trap of sentimentality. It isn’t always perfect, but the Minders do play “perfect pop.” To the detractors who would have liked to find the band take a more innovative approach on Golden Street, Leaper says honestly that it’s all about “the hook,” and nothing more.

“It’s a pop record ���� that’s all it is ���� it’s a pop record,” Leapers voice raises in defense of the music he’s loved his whole life. “I’m not trying to reform or refurbish or revamp any style, it’s the style I like, so be it if it’s a vintage style or whatever . . . We’re playing a sort of music you either love it or you hate it.”

As the saying goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ���� just be sure to keep the wheels greased, and that the Minders do.